It’s spring in Canada and although the weather could be a bit nicer, it’s time to follow my mother’s advice and “Go outside to blow the stink off”. I’m not sure where that saying came from or what it means but it was Mother’s day last weekend so we should make an extra special effort to listen to those words of wisdom.
With the many advances in Medical Science, we find ourselves surrounded by wise people. As generations go, we have more elders than any generation that came before us and we seem to be generally ignoring their advice and in some cases their existence. My wife and I recently visited her parents and we had a great time, but they live quite far away and we don’t get to see them as often as we would like. My mother has had Alzheimer’s for many years now and passed away last Saturday (Funeral today). Any additional pearls of wisdom are lost forever.
I would suggest to you that we do not embrace our elders in the way many other cultures do. In some cases this is because the elders themselves believe that they are no longer contributors to society and as a result do not deserve our attention. I used to regularly visit homes for the elderly, where I played guitar and sang songs for their entertainment. I had many interesting conversations and learned much about life in Canada before my time.
The people in these homes today are not much older than I am and as a result have few stories that I have not already heard. The interesting conversations now revolve around personal experiences that happened in parallel with my own experiences. Unfortunately the mind is perhaps one of the worst recording devices, fusing memories and failing us in our senior years. It’s hard to separate the truth from the fiction in our own memories let alone those of others.
I was born at the end of the Baby Boomer generation and as a group I have heard it said that we have made the biggest impact on society to date. I don’t see any reason to stop now. We need to address our elders and keep them engaged. We need to define roles in our businesses where they have an opportunity to contribute. Our elders should be able to look forward to a retirement where they keep their skills and memories sharp because they know they will be called upon to help others.
Some professions like Medical Doctors have mechanisms in place where retired doctors can continue to practice. This adds years to their retirement by keeping them engaged. We need to do the same with other professions like computer science and engineering.
I would like to end today by challenging all of my peers to making part time positions available in your organizations for elders. I’m not talking about advisory roles, I’m talking about assigning challenging problems and paying for the best solutions. There are too many start ups filled with new grads that have minimal life experience. Yes new grads have excellent skills and cost much less, but lets not discount the contributions that come from living. Every great new idea starts with a single step.